In a thoughtful personal essay for Derek Jeter’s The Player’s Tribune, J. Cole dove deep into his college hoop dreams and signing his first record deal in a post entitled The Audacity, which also revealed that the 35-year-old MC is the father of two.
Though his personal life is typically kept in the background, Cole reminisced about the four-year rush of blood to the head since he released his 2016 album 4 Year Eyez Only, while opening up about this previously unseen domestic part of his life.
“Four years have passed. In that time I’ve been blessed with two sons, learned the delicate art of balance between parenthood and career, had the pleasure of working with a ton of talented artists as a featured rapper, spent 10 magical days recording a Dreamville album in Atlanta, and put a lot of time and energy into sharpening my sword and growing as an artist,” he wrote, doubling up on the one son he’d previously spoken about.
Cole, who quietly married longtime girlfriend Melissa Heholt in 2015, also hinted that while he’s focusing on his upcoming The Fall Off album, thoughts of retirement are swirling as well.
“[I have a] long-term plan of becoming the best rapper I could possibly be before hanging up my jersey, leaving nothing on the table when all was said and done,” he said, noting that his “fire” to rap has been rekindled and that he has “a few more items to check off” his career bucket list. “As I approach the summit of this mountain, I still find myself staring at that other one in the distance, wondering if I can climb.”
Describing his time at St. John’s University, Cole threw back to when he was trying out for the school’s team as a sophomore after failing to file the proper paperwork in time his freshman year. “I promised myself I wouldn’t make the same mistake again,” he wrote. “I spent that entire school year playing five days a week on campus against some quality competition from across the country. St. John’s had some hoopers. There were a lot of dudes on campus that played high-school ball and some could have easily played for a low level division I team. For what it’s worth, in this small basketball community of non student-athletes, I was one of the top players.”
Though a self-described “late bloomer,” Cole said he didn’t find his confidence on the court until his senior year in high school, making up in creativity and finesse what he lacked in fundamentals. Spoiler alert: He brought it at that tryout and was invited to a callback the next day, conjuring dreams of making it to the “ultimate mountaintop” — the NBA.
“As I envisioned this future for myself, there was a truth that I couldn’t escape,” he wrote. “I came to school in New York on a different mission. There was a different mountain that I promised myself I would climb. A mountain just as steep and just as easy to fall from. A mountain that took even more delusion to believe that it could be climbed in the first place. I came to New York to be a rap legend.”
So he stayed in bed that next day and went back to sleep instead of going to the callback. H e signed his first record deal on Feb. 24, 2009, at age 24.